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Archive for the ‘Blessings’ Category

 

After running a few errands last Saturday, Steve and I stopped at Panera for soup, salad, and sandwich.

We’d been seated for a while when Steve said, “A few tables behind you are two young men, and the one facing this way is wearing a T-shirt that says, ASK ME FOR PRAYER. Great big block letters too. ”

“Interesting. ‘Haven’t seen that one before,” I commented.

“Do you suppose he means it?”

“It’s a bold statement; I’ll bet he does.”

When we’d finished our lunch, I headed to the cold drinks bar to refresh my tea; Steve headed to the table of the young man in the T-shirt.

(We never did exchange names, so I’ll call him Paul, because I can see the Apostle Paul wearing just such a shirt, if it were available in his day.)

By the time I reached their table, Steve had discovered Paul did indeed mean what was blazoned on his chest.

“I’d appreciate it if you’d put me on your prayer list,” Steve told him. “I’m facing some serious health problems right now.”

But Paul did not assure us that he would pray. Instead he said, “Let’s pray for you right now!”

He and his friend immediately stood up, laid hands on Steve, and Paul prayed for him right in the middle of Panera—and very articulately.

 

 

With conviction he praised God for His power to heal every kind of disease and sickness. He thanked God for his compassion on those who suffer, and prayed for the Spirit to move in Steve’s body and restore him to health. Paul also prayed against the spiritual forces of evil that would try to attack–and all in the powerful name of Jesus.

 

 

We spoke for a few moments more, first thanking them for hitting the pause button on their lunch to minister to us. Steve told them he’d been a pastor for forty years; Paul said he was from Tennessee, just passing through Cincinnati.

On the way to our car Steve said, “That was the most genuine, thorough healing prayer I’ve heard in a long time.”

And it undoubtedly came from a righteous man. In just those few moments of contact we saw passion, sincerity, obedience to God, humility, and grace.

You might remember what God promised about the prayers of such a person:

 

 

I found myself wishing we’d asked Paul for his business card. Wouldn’t it be fun, perhaps a year from now or so, to share with Paul how God had answered every part of his prayer on behalf of Steve.

Then,I remembered.  Eventually Paul will know, because:

  • God knows everything (Isaiah 40:13-14).
  • And since God and his Son are One (John 1:18); Jesus knows everything.
  • And when Jesus returns, we’ll be like him (1 John 3:2), and then we will know everything too.

 

 

So, one day, “Paul” will realize the outcome of his prayer for that preacher named Steve, while he just happened to be in an out-of-state Panera restaurant, wearing his ASK-ME-TO-PRAY-FOR-YOU T-shirt.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We praise you, O God, for your surpassing greatness–like engineering delightful, specially designed events.  What God is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do?  We also praise you for your acts of power–like healing, because you are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the people.

(Deuteronomy 3:24; Psalm 77:14)

 

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flicker.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.maxpixel.net.)

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There are those who would say the sweetest time of life is childhood, when we carry few responsibilities and enjoy hours of play.

Others will say the teen years are best, when the freedoms to go, do, and become are gloriously opened before us.

Ah, but then come the years of building a career and perhaps raising a family. Maybe that’s the sweetest time, as we pursue success in our vocations and witness the achievements of our children—from first steps to last graduation and beyond.

As a retiree of almost seven years, I would chime in with Vance Havner who said:

“The last chapter of life can be the best.”

 

 

Yes, aging has its downside. The person we see in the mirror has changed drastically. Joints refuse to bend and twist like they used to. And though we wish our waists would thin out, it’s our skin that has.

But that’s just the outside—the least important part of who we are.

The golden years offer much sweetness to savor. If you’re not there yet, here’s what you have to look forward to:

  1. The gift of memory

The older we get the more memories we have to enjoy. And just about everything reminds us of something else. ‘Ever try reading street signs and billboards to see if the names conjure up people or places from the past? It’s a game guaranteed to make you smile.

Cindy Lane reminds me of a dear friend in Florida (Hi, Cindy!), Barbara Circle conjures up a valued colleague from my teaching days, and Harrison Avenue takes me back to my childhood, riding my bike on the street of the same name in my small hometown.

Shared memories are even more delightful. Not long ago in church, the pastor asked if we could remember a time when low expectations generated poor output. Steve and I made eye contact and simultaneously whispered the name of a union-controlled company he worked for years ago.   We almost laughed out loud amidst the silent congregation. Such fun.

 

 

  1. The wisdom of experience

Experience with God teaches us the wisdom of his perfect ways (Psalm 18:30). Life is enhanced when faith, kindness, and gratitude characterize our days–just as he’s said.

Occasionally our wisdom-from-experience may be sought by others. But actions speak louder than words. To live wisely and make prudent choices—that’s the best way to impart wisdom. They’ll remember what we did better than what we said.

 

  1. The expansion of certain abilities

Research indicates that as we get older our abilities to reflect, create, and analyze can actually improve. The reason may be “we bring experience to knowledge and then add wisdom to our result.” Of course, we must continue to “cultivate our mental acuity as we age”.*  We must never stop learning, evaluating, and thinking about new ideas.

 

 

  1. The time to be present in the moment

We can savor such luxuries as watching raindrops make momentary rings in puddles and checking for signs of burgeoning spring that were not noticeable yesterday.

Now we have more time to express our gratitude for every good gift God bestows. And since gratitude begets joy and contentment, we can make these years a season of delight.

We also have more time to stop and listen—to the frustrated store clerk, the struggling waitress, the overwhelmed young parent. At our disposal are the benefits just listed–the gift of memory, the wisdom of experience, the enhanced abilities of reflection and evaluation—all useful for offering beneficial (but brief!) encouragement.

And as we lighten the burden of others we find our own spirits uplifted.

 

 

  1. The faith to persevere 

We’ve lived long enough to see God bring us through sadness, difficulty, distress, and more. We know he will provide for every need to the end. And such confidence overflows in perfect peace.

__________________________________

 

For these reasons and more, our latter years can be the sweetest time of life.

 

(http://quotefacy.com/quote/758763)

 

“For age is opportunity no less

Than youth itself, though in another dress,

And as the evening twilight fades away

The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

In that we can rejoice!

 

*Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years, p. 96.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.afgsc.af.mil; http://www.Canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.quotefancy.com.)

 

 

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“Are you all set for your move to Chicago?” I heard Jessica* ask. She’s one of the hair stylists at the salon I go to. Her station is just on the other side of a partition from where my stylist Anna* works.

As I settled into Anna’s chair last Wednesday morning, I readily heard the conversation between Jessica and her client.

“Yes, we found the perfect house,” the woman was saying. “There are just two bedrooms, but…”

I knew that voice.

In late December my hair appointment had overlapped with the same client. That day she had expressed concern because none of the properties shown on realtor websites were fitting her and her husband’s criteria. She feared there would be no suitable homes to tour during their house hunt set for mid-February.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she confided. “I hate to think of moving into a rental and then moving again later.”

It seemed fitting to share our house-search experience.

“Excuse me,” I interrupted while peeking around the partition. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation and just wanted to tell you the same thing happened to us before we moved here three and a half years ago.  We discovered that if the perfect house becomes available too soon, it’s likely to be sold by the time you’re able to visit the area and view homes.

“Our perfect house came on the market just two weeks before we flew up here from Florida to house-hunt. The same will happen for you, I’m sure of it!”

She thanked me warmly, appreciative of the voice-of experience offering reassurance.

And now, at the end of March, I was quite certain that same woman (whom I had not seen since December) was in Jessica’s chair again, sharing the next chapter of her story.

I peeked around the partition just as I had before.  Instantly we recognized each other.

“You found the perfect house! Awesome!” I cried.

“Just like you said, “ she replied. “It came on the market a couple of weeks before our trip to Chicago.”

It wasn’t long before the two of us sported our coloring-chemicals and sat together so I could hear about her house. We chatted away like old friends.

A couple of times Diane* mentioned her husband’s illness but gave no specifics; I didn’t press for details. Later in the conversation it seemed appropriate to share Steve’s recent diagnosis of liver cancer. (You can read a short explanation at the end of last week’s post, “Haven of Peace.”)

“I don’t always talk about the details of my Ken’s* illness,” Diane confided, “but you need to know.” She paused. “Ken was diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago. The doctors only gave him twelve to fifteen months to live after the surgery, but it’s been two years and he’s still here!”

And together we praised God for his goodness.

I left the salon last Wednesday with my heart greatly uplifted. Ordinarily I would have sat at Anna’s station and read magazines or the book I always bring along.

But God is El Roi, the God Who Sees (Genesis 16:13). He saw my need for companionship that day.

He is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Will Provide (Genesis 22:14). He provided Diane to be his voice of encouragement, hope, and joy.

He is El Shaddai, God Almighty (Psalm 91:1). He rules over all—every situation, every difficulty, every illness—even cancer.  Sometimes he ordains miracles.   Diane’s husband and countless others are living proof.

 

 

He is Yahweh Nissi, The Lord Our Banner (Exodus 17:15-16).  He goes into the battle before us, leading the way toward victory in all circumstances—a victory of faith in the face of trouble (1 John 5:4).

He is Yahweh Rapha, The Lord Who Heals (Psalm 103:2-3). And if the healing is not realized on earth, it is guaranteed in heaven (Revelation 21:4).

 

*     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

We praise you, O God,

for your knowledge that comforts,

your provision that reassures,

your power that enables,

your leadership that guides,

your healing that perfects.

You alone are the wellspring

of all that we need.

May we trust in you

with unwavering confidence

and rest in your transcendent peace.  

 

*Names changed.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.minot.af.mil (Cassandra Jones, photographer); http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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Saturday afternoon provided the perfect circumstances for a cozy sit by the fire.   The calendar was clear for the day and we could burrow into the quiet. Snow showers added to the tranquility as they gently outlined backyard trees in white.

 

 

The serenity of our sitting area is enhanced by the beloved hand-me-down decor: the clock, oil lamp and child-size rocker from my grandmother, lanterns that belonged to Steve’s Dad and grandfather, books of our parents’ youth, and a painting that once hung in the home of Steve’s parents.

 

 

Altogether, the golden firelight, familiar furnishings, and cozy comfort engender peace and contentment.

But as delightful as these moments are, this kind of tranquility is fleeting. At any moment the phone might ring and the caller share distressing news. Then we’ll hardly notice our snug surroundings as concerns and questions begin to demand our attention.

When that phone call comes, circumstantial peace will not be enough. But that’s the only kind this world can offer. What we really need at such times is a stillness of spirit that originates outside this world from the Master of Peace.

My peace I give you,” Jesus told his disciples. “I do not give you as the world gives.”

 

 

Remember when he spoke those words? The night before he died.  He well knew what was to come (1). The next day would be a maelstrom of suffering, climaxed by tortuous pain on a cross.

How could he speak of peace on the eve of such horror?

Because his heart was always directed Godward, resulting in radiant peace. Jesus faced rejection, false accusations, hateful treatment (from religious leaders no less), and even attempted stoning. And yet he remained unruffled.

“Christ’s life outwardly was one of the most troubled lives that was ever lived…But the inner life was a sea of glass. The great calm was always there” (2).

 

 

And this is the peace he offers us—a peace that includes tranquility, security, and prosperity of spirit in spite of circumstances. It is “a rare treasure, dazzling in delicate beauty yet strong enough to withstand all onslaughts” (3).

How do we avail ourselves of this treasure?

By reviewing the attributes and promises of our Prince of Peace–all day long.

“Great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace,” said Charles Spurgeon.

 

 

Perhaps we could word our great thoughts of Christ as a prayer:

You, Lord Jesus, are our Good Shepherd, always leading in the way we should go. You tenderly watch over us, meeting every need and protecting us from evil—including wild, fearful thoughts and emotions (4).  

You are full of love for us. Out of your kindness and compassion you see us through every dark valley of life. Though we may not always be aware, you are ever-present, ready to offer strength and support (5).

 

 

You have said, “Everything is possible for those who believe” (6). And we know that’s true because we’ve seen your miracles. You’ve healed incurable diseases; you’ve protected and provided in hopeless situations. You’ve enabled others to transition to heaven with impossible grace and joy.

For these reasons and many others, we place ourselves in your attentive, all-wise, all-powerful care.

You are our Mighty One, our Rock, our Haven of Peace.

 

 

______________________________

 

P.S. I started rough drafting this post last Saturday afternoon, while sitting by that fire. Uncertainty had already moved into our hearts after Steve’s blood work last week turned up questionable results. The doctor immediately called for a cat scan that took place on Friday. Monday he shared the results with us: liver cancer.

Steve is now on an obstacle-ridden road toward a liver transplant, and the future holds much greater uncertainty than we faced last week.

Do you suppose it’s just coincidence that I’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about peace for the last six days?

I don’t think so either.

 

Notes:

(1) Luke 22:15-16

(2) Henry Drummond

(3) Sarah Young

(4) John 10:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; John 10:11

(5) Ephesians 5:1-2; Luke 6:35; Matthew 28:20

(6) Mark 9:23

 

Photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org.

 

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“Your life can overflow with radical blessings!” Jesus told the crowd.

Maybe he didn’t use those words (even in Aramaic), but that was the reason he shared eight glimpses of what happens when we embrace God’s way of thinking and living.  Those eight declarations of blessedness are called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

Declaration #1 reads as follows:

 

 

The subsequent seven statements follow the same pattern.

But read through the rest of scripture and you’ll find other beatitudes as well, especially in Proverbs. And now that I’ve accumulated some life experience over a number of decades, I see more clearly than ever:  we do receive radical blessings when we embrace God’s ways.

For example:

Rhonda was struggling financially, trying to work part-time as much as she could while putting herself through college. She came over for dinner one night and I felt compelled to give her a bunch of coupons from my file, for the things she purchased regularly.

 

 

Now you have to understand, that coupon collection was extensive, because I gathered from numerous sources, traded with others, and even sent away product labels to receive high-value coupons.

It hurt to hand over a fistful of my precious stash. But I knew it was the right thing to do.

The next week, I received–from two different women–two bags full of coupon inserts from Sunday newspapers.

And I learned:

 

 

Or, written Beatitude-style:

Blessed are those who give freely,

for they will gain even more.*

 

___________________________________

 

 

Everyone loved “Aunt Toss.” She never went anywhere without a smile on her lips, a twinkle in her eye, and a chuckle at the ready. Frequently Aunt Toss would pop into Steve’s office to share a joke he might be able to use in a sermon. She saw humor in everything, was quick with the witty quip, and could pun with the best of them.

Yet during the years we knew her, she suffered terribly from shingles. And she missed her husband dearly. No one would have blamed Aunt Toss if her cheerfulness slipped a little. But she didn’t let that happen.

Instead, Aunt Toss enjoyed a continual feast of happy thoughts, pleasurable moments, and the reflected cheer from others, as she caused everyone around her to smile and laugh with her.

And I learned:

 

 

Written Beatitude-style:

 

Blessed are the cheerful,

for they have a continual feast of delight.

 

(The lovely lady in the photograph is not Aunt Toss, but she exuded the same joy.)

 

___________________________________

 

One of my husband’s spiritual gifts is generosity (Romans 12:8). Even during those early years of our marriage when the budget was tight, he would graciously help others in need.

So how did we make ends meet? We lived quite frugally, owned one car, wore some very nice hand-me-down clothing from family and friends, shopped with coupons of course, and watched for bargains.

One store in particular became a regular stop on my errands—a hit-or-miss place that carried an ever-changing array of goods.

One day a jumble of Keds lay piled on a table near their door. Heather, our middle child, was just about ready for a new pair. But she had narrow feet; her shoes had to be purchased at places like Stride Rite. The chance I’d find her size on that table was slim to none. (‘Hope you like puns!)

But a good rummage through the mound turned up a pair of size 7 slim after all. The best part? The price. You are not going to believe this:

Fifty cents.

 

 

Now granted, this occurred in the late 1970s. Things were cheaper back then, but not THAT cheap! At Stride Rite, we were paying $14.00 for a pair of Keds.

During those years of financial challenge, God provided bargain after bargain and gift after gift, due at least in part to Steve’s God-honoring generosity. And as only our Heavenly Father can do, he made sure our needs were always met—and then some.

 

 

For out beatitude statement, we can add the result of kindness, from verse 31:

Blessed is he who is kind to the needy,

for he honors God.

 

___________________________________

 

Over and over God has proved:   His ways are always best.  In fact, they are perfect.

 

 

How has he proved his wise ways in your life?  Please share your story in the comment section below!

 

* Of course, financial gain is not the only way God blesses those who give freely. Gains can be received through enhanced relationships, an uplifted spirit, added wisdom, greater contentment—and that’s just for starters. Our God is highly creative; he brings gain into our lives in countless ways.

 

Art & photo credits — Sermon on the Mount: wikimedia.com, bird on branch: www,canva.com,  coupons: http://www.pexels.com, hands: http://www.flickr.com, smiling woman: http://www.pexels.com, heart: http://www.pexels.com,  tennis shoes: ww.pixabay.com, Proverbs 14:21: http://www.heartlight.org, 2 Samuel 22:31: http://www.dailyverses.net.

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(A personal psalm in honor of our Lord Jesus)

 

 

We praise you, Author and Perfecter of our Faith.

BY your death on the cross we are saved from eternal separation from you and all that is good.  Your sacrifice made possible our adoption as children of the God of the universe. Your forgiveness covers every failure, and as your character permeates our own, your grace transforms us into works of art.

 

 

We praise you, Righteous One.

IN you there is no condemnation hanging over us like a black cloud. No longer must each of us wear the label sinner; we become saints when clothed in your righteousness.   Who dares point the finger and cry “Guilty?” Because of you, Lord Jesus, God has already forgiven us and granted right standing with himself.

 

 

We praise you, Emmanuel (God with us).

WITH you we may live a new life of confidence that Someone stronger and wiser is in charge, Someone available day or night for whatever we need, Someone perfectly capable to take on our troubles, Someone dedicated to increasing our joy, and Someone to infuse our lives with purpose and fulfillment.

 

 

We praise you, Ruler of Creation.

TO you all things are brought into existence. Everything in creation is for your glory—from the innumerable stars spilling across the sky to the diverse creatures inhabiting every corner of our planet.   As for humanity, we too are diverse—each endowed with unique gifts and talents to live for the praise of your glory.

 

 

We praise you, Great Shepherd.

FROM you we receive grace, mercy, and peace. Because of your grace, you listen to the broken heart, the guilt-ridden soul, the desperate plea. Lovingly you reply, “Come, and I will give you rest.” Out of your mercy you keep no record of wrongs. Your peace accompanies us through every storm of life.

 

 

We praise you, Lord of All.

THROUGH you we can do all things. Your perfect strength equips us for all life’s challenges, as we avail ourselves through continual, affirmative prayer. How reassuring to know “your power flows most freely into those who acknowledge their need for you” (Unknown).

 

 

We praise you, Christ Jesus our Hope.

LIKE you we will be raised from death to eternal life. That’s not just wishful thinking; it’s reliable truth. A whole body of proof corroborates the scripture record of your resurrection.* And because you came back to life, we can know beyond a shadow of doubt that eternity in heaven is guaranteed to us who put our trust in you.

 

 

Such astounding truths—too glorious for full comprehension.

But may I never cease to try.

_________________________

 

*The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (Zondervan, updated 2016) offers proof after proof of the resurrection from scholars in the fields of science, history, and philosophy.  The book became the basis for a movie by the same title in 2017.

 

Scriptures used for this post:

Author and Protector–Hebrews 12:2; Acts 4:12; Romans 8:14-15; 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 2:10.

Righteous One–1 John 2:1; Romans 8:1 MSG; Hebrews 10:14-18; Romans 8:33-34.

Emmanuel–Matthew 1:23; Romans 6:4; Daniel 2:20; Psalm 46:1; Matthew 19:26; John 15:11; Philippians 2:13.

Ruler of Creation–Colossians 1:15; Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:12.

Great Shepherd–Hebrews 13:2; 2 John 3; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 13:5; John 4:27.

Lord of All–Acts 10:36; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians:9.

Christ Jesus Our Hope–1 Peter 1:3; John 5:24; 1 John 5:12.

 

Art & photo credits: Ephesians 2:10–www.dailyverses.net; John 14:27–dailyverses.net; 2 Corinthians 12:9–www.heartlight.org.   

 

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“Well, that’s about as good as I can make it,” Steve announced.

We stood at the end of the hall in the parsonage where we lived, surveying his handiwork: a fort.

You see, a hurricane was roiling toward all of us who lived in South Florida, the second storm in two weeks.

The first one, named Frances, had torn branches from our trees, ripped numerous shingles off the roof, mangled the screened enclosure and thrown it in the pool.

It could have been so much worse.

 

(Jeanne at Landfall.  We lived south of the eye–in that bright red area.)

 

Now we were facing Hurricane Jeanne. We had no idea if Frances had compromised the roof structure, and of course we were among thousands waiting for an inspection to assess such damage.

Because of the uncertainty of our situation, Steve built that fort. He dragged two dressers into the wide area at the end of the hall where doors opened to three bedrooms, two storage closets and a bath. Over the dressers he put two mattresses, and on top of that, two long, folding tables.

He tightly looped rope around all the doorknobs (to help hold them shut) except the door to our bedroom and bath. Then he laced the rope across the dresser-mattress-table structure like a web, and tied it all together snugly.

Now I know why little boys build forts, I thought, so when they grow up they can keep their families safe during a hurricane.

In spite of Steve’s efforts, however, we could not be sure his structure would withstand the pressure of the wind, especially if the roof gave way. And even a well-built fort could not keep out water should flooding become an issue.

But thankfully our fate was not in Steve’s hands, reliant on his fort-building skills (stellar though they be).  Our lives were–as they always are–in the sure hands of God.

 

 

 

No, those verses are not meant to imply God’s perfect protection for his people at all times. The historical record and present day tragedies bear out: Many wonderful men, women, and even children have suffered and died through no fault of their own.

However, those of us who have “made the Most High our dwelling,” can be assured of these truths:

  1. Any number of catastrophes could have overtaken us already, but God has safeguarded us.

For example, if it were not for his providential care I may already have died from:

  • Any number of illnesses as a child. Thanks to penicillin and antibiotics I survived.
  • Car accidents.  At least several times I’ve come that close to a horrific crash.
  • Falls from high places. (You can read about one such escapade here.)

No doubt you have your own stories to tell of potentially disastrous circumstances.

2. God always brings good out of distress—beginning with heightened awareness of his presence (Psalm 94:18-19).

 

 

Another positive outcome:  By the wind of his Spirit, he stirs up the ripple effect of his work in us to impact the lives others.

 

3.  In the context of eternity, our time on earth is no more than a blink.

One day we will be delivered out of this broken world into a place where no harm or disaster will ever occur, all troubles, frustrations, and pain will fade into insignificance.

 

Such truths gave me comfort that night as I hunkered down in our fort.  Wind and rain pounded against the house, sounding like hundreds of stomping feet on gymnasium risers.

Yet I slept.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Afterword: Obviously we survived that storm. The roof held firm and we experienced no flooding. Yes, the region was without power again for a number of days, and there was more debris to clean up. But God honored us with his loving protection–again.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.maxpixel.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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